justinwatson
Photo: Amanda Suarez

Although Penn boasts many talented student-athletes, their most impressive feats may not even come on the field.

Ivy League athletes face the ultimate balancing act between performing in their sport while also keeping up with a demanding course load.

Every year, the Ivy League recognizes this challenge by presenting 80 student-athletes in at least their second year with the Academic All-Ivy honor each season, which amounts to 10 students per Ancient Eight institution. These students are starters or key reserves in their respective sports while also maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA.

Penn’s honorees for the fall 2015 were senior Thomas Awad (men’s cross country), senior Alexis Genske (volleyball), senior Elizabeth Hitti (field hockey), sophomore Alexa Hoover (field hockey), senior Paige Lombard (women’s soccer), junior Mike McCurdy (sprint football), senior Ashley Montgomery (women’s cross country), senior Alec Neumann (men’s soccer), senior Tanner Thexton (football) and sophomore Justin Watson (football).

Awad, a health & societies major who won his second consecutive Heptagonal Games title in men’s cross country in late October, recognized the difficulty of performing in the classroom while still performing strong athletically.

“Especially studying at Penn, which is a very ‘academics first’ school, it’s a challenge to achieve both academically and athletically,” Awad said. “It’s all about trying to not let one get in the way of the other.”

Watson, who was a finalist for the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League’s Offensive Player of the Year while studying in the Wharton School of Business, agrees that academic achievement and athletic obligations often force some tough decisions.

“Down the stretch of the season, I definitely wanted those extra couple hours to watch film and practice,” Watson admitted. “But I knew I needed the time to keep up with my work.”

Watson also commented on the Ivy League’s strategic decision to make sure athletic seasons wind down before final exams.

“The way the season is set up allowed for me to put a lot of time into football without depriving myself of study time for my exams,” Watson said. “The Ivy League knows how tough the schoolwork is and that athletes could use the time in between to get caught up.”

Both Awad and Watson left some parting advice for other students who are struggling to balance multiple obligations, whatever they may be.

“What’s really helped me is using Penn’s resources,” Watson said. “The tutors they have available can be a huge help and can work around your schedule.”

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself would be the first thing I’d recommend,” Awad added. “You have to accept that you can’t totally dedicate yourself to just one.”

“You just need to allocate time for both and do the best you can.”

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